Friday, 24 June 2011

Hollywood and The Abuse of Literature

Alfonso Cuaron's 2006 film Children of Men, loosely based on a 1992 novel by P.D. James, stands in a long tradition of British dystopias which includes such classics as George Orwell's seminal Nineteen Eighty-Four. The film itself also carries on a long tradition among film-makers of contorting works of literature into forms that are practically unrecognizable to anyone who may happen to have read the original, reflecting the somewhat contemptuous attitude apparently held by some producers/directors that those who watch films will never bother to read the original, and that the opinion of those who read books is of no value.

When Danny Boyle brought Alex Garland’s novel The Beach to the cinema the character Jed was written out completely, and the latent sexual dynamic between the central character and two of the principal female characters in the book became explicit once transferred to celluloid, altering the dynamic and mood entirely.

Comics writer Alan Moore became so disillusioned with the unfaithfulness of Hollywood producers that he insisted on having his name removed from all future adaptations of his work (ownership of which belongs to the publisher DC Comics). This is a persistent trend, satirized by MAD magazine in the 1950s when they contrasted the explicit sex and violence of a book with the sanitized Hollywood rendition. This is a trend which has seen an ironic reversal since the 1970s.

I find the fact that film-makers re-write books not nearly so damaging as the fact that the end result is frequently an artistic disaster, rife with inconsistencies and plot-holes you could drive an articulated lorry through.

On a seperate note, I am often struck by the way in which some film critics take verbal diarrhea to whole new levels. To use an example, one review for Children of Men by Michael Joshua Rowin talked about the “stunning verisimilitude within its mise-en-scène.” Clearly, Rowin could not have simply referred to the film’s “stunning visual honesty,” without having to explain what he means.

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